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East Lansing, MI, United States

Wildlife Division

East Lansing, MI, United States
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Moore J.A.,Grand Valley State University | Moore J.A.,Michigan State University | Draheim H.M.,Michigan State University | Etter D.,Wildlife Division | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Understanding the factors that affect dispersal is a fundamental question in ecology and conservation biology, particularly as populations are faced with increasing anthropogenic impacts. Here we collected georeferenced genetic samples (n = 2,540) from three generations of black bears (Ursus americanus) harvested in a large (47,739 km2), geographically isolated population and used parentage analysis to identify mother-offspring dyads (n = 337). We quantified the effects of sex, age, habitat type and suitability, and local harvest density at the natal and settlement sites on the probability of natal dispersal, and on dispersal distances. Dispersal was male-biased (76% of males dispersed) but a small proportion (21%) of females also dispersed, and female dispersal distances (mean ± SE = 48.9±7.7 km) were comparable to male dispersal distances (59.0±3.2 km). Dispersal probabilities and dispersal distances were greatest for bears in areas with high habitat suitability and low harvest density. The inverse relationship between dispersal and harvest density in black bears suggests that 1) intensive harvest promotes restricted dispersal, or 2) high black bear population density decreases the propensity to disperse. Multigenerational genetic data collected over large landscape scales can be a powerful means of characterizing dispersal patterns and causal associations with demographic and landscape features in wild populations of elusive and wide-ranging species. © 2014 Moore et al.


News Article | November 27, 2016
Site: www.cnet.com

The future looks grim for the rhinoceros. Just 29,000 rhinos now exist in the wild, down from half a million at the beginning of the 20th century. Look closer, and the numbers become even more disheartening. The western black rhino was officially declared extinct in 2011. Three of the five remaining species aren't far behind: Just 58 to 61 Javan rhinos and fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos now live in the wild. Armed guards in Kenya constantly protect the last three northern white rhinos on the planet. The animals' most lethal predators are human, attracted to the big business of rhino horn. And it is big business. By most estimates, rhino horn can fetch as much as $60,000 per kilo, or about $27,000 a pound. That makes it more valuable by weight than gold or cocaine. The chief markets are in Asia, where traditional medicine has used the horn for centuries to treat everything from fevers and convulsions to rheumatism and food poisoning. But demand for the horn has skyrocketed in just the past 10 years, primarily in Vietnam. Now the world's biggest consumer of rhino horn, the country's swelling well-to-do class prizes it as a status symbol of wealth and power, and a miracle cure for cancer. As a result, poaching has surged to "unprecedented levels," Save the Rhino International (SRI) says on its website. In South Africa alone, poachers slaughtered almost 3,400 rhinos over three years -- a rate of one animal every eight hours -- according to SRI. If the pace continues, rhinos could be wiped from the wild within the next decade. That could have far-reaching consequences because the rhinoceros is what scientists call an umbrella species. Protect it, and you protect the other species sharing its habitat. Rhinoceros survival matters -- and conservationists are turning to science and technology to save it. Several companies, including Ceratotech, Rhinoceros Horn LLC and Pembient, believe they have the solution for stopping illegal rhino horn traffic: Give consumers lab-grown alternatives at a fraction of the price, crowding the real thing out of the market. Pembient is the most prominent company in this space. Its approach relies on 3D bioprinting -- basically adding rhino DNA to synthetic keratin, then creating a sort of keratin ink that can run through a 3D printer. The company says its bioprinted material is genetically identical to real horn. Co-founder and CEO Matthew Markus thinks Pembient can do more good by flooding the market with lab-grown horn than traditional conservation efforts can. "When you show up in a country and say you can't use tiger bone, rhinoceros horn, pangolin scales and so on, that's a tough sell," says Markus. "We like to say Pembient is founded on the belief that animals are precious and traditions are important. I see value in both, while it seems most conservationists don't." Conservationists don't just see things differently. Over the past two years, more than a dozen organizations have written articles, published position papers or filed petitions against the sale of synthetic horn. This past February, WildAid and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the US Department of the Interior to ban the import, export and sale of bioengineered horn. Nearly all say fakes will just make things worse -- stimulating demand for real horn and reinforcing the myth that it can cure cancer. "What Pembient does is validate the untruth that there's any medical value to rhino horn," says CeCe Sieffert, deputy director of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). "Having something created as a supplement or replacement says there is value." Thomas Snitch, previously executive officer of the UN Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System and professor at the University of Maryland's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, believes black marketers would just sell synthetic horn as the real thing. "The criminal syndicates would like to kill every rhino on the planet and control every rhino horn left in existence," he says. "Then a horn will have an infinite value. They will buy up the Pembient horn and sell it for tens of millions." This year, researchers with San Diego Zoo Global and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, in Berlin, revealed they're working on an absolute last-ditch effort -- building rhinoceroses from scratch using stem cell technology. Here's how it would work. A team from the San Diego Zoo would induce stem cells from the three remaining northern white rhinos -- which are too old to breed -- into sperm and egg cells. The team will also use frozen sperm and other cells taken from 10 other northern white rhinos before they died. The scientists will then use IVF to fertilize the egg and implant the resulting embryo in a surrogate southern white rhino. "Only two embryos have ever been created," says Sieffert. "One grew to two cells and one grew to three cells but weren't viable after that. A rhino's a lot more than three cells. The technology just isn't there." In 2015, the UK nonprofit organization Protect announced it would help save rhinos by installing cameras in their horns. This system, called RAPID (Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device), would comprise the camera, a GPS collar and a heart-rate monitor. A suddenly rapid heart rate would tell the system to switch on the camera, sound an alarm and dispatch an anti-poaching team. It sounds great in theory. It also raised quite a few questions: How long would the power last? What if the rhino damaged anything? Could poachers steal or destroy the camera? Protect seems to have backed away from the idea. At the time of this writing, the organization had removed any mention of RAPID from its website and YouTube channel. And its chief architect, Paul O'Donoghue of the University of Chester, in England, didn't respond to requests for comment. Snitch took a more feasible approach. Using GPS trackers, satellite imagery and analytics software, his team created models predicting the movements of rhinos, rangers and poachers in South Africa's Olifants West Reserve. "We now have 11 months of data on every patrol route, every animal seen, every anomaly the rangers spotted," says Snitch. "I now have an organic model of how the reserve breathes, how people and animals move, so I know when and where to target poachers." But not everything has to be state of the art. Simple trickery can work, too. "I put $12 fake CCTV cameras with motion and blinking lights up in a number of trees -- along with a couple of real cameras," says Snitch, now director of federal relations at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "The poachers think I have the fence line covered. In the area we are currently operating, we have cut poaching by 87 percent." He's also using the nature to aid efforts to supply technology in the field, an ingenious combination that relies on a firm understanding of the way the local environment works. "I am working on building beehives in Zambia equipped with solar panels, radio repeaters and a video camera on a telescopic mast," he says. "Honey to sell, better crop pollination, power to charge cell phones and lights at night, better ranger communications and the elephants stay away from village gardens -- reducing animal/human conflict. Elephants are deathly afraid of bees. All for $600 a hive. No one is going to steal my beehive." Saving the rhinoceros involves more than stopping poachers before they kill. We also have to show local communities they can gain more from the rhino's survival than they can by killing it, says IRF's Sieffert. "That can happen with ecotourism, through hiring rangers, paying local communities," she says. "We have one group in Indonesia that we pay to gather food for the animals in the sanctuary. In Tanzania, communities can create what's called communal conservancies and then sell concessions to tourism companies. That community-based conservation is a critical link in wildlife conservation." Then there's the issue of combating the illegal traffic. Both Sieffert and Snitch praise sniffer dogs, like those trained by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), for their role in that. Over two months, the AWF's Conservation Canine Programme trains dogs and handlers to be sent to key export hubs, such as Tanzania's port of Dar es Salaam. Sniffer dogs can detect even the smallest amounts of rhino horn dust with a 90 percent accuracy rate, the AWF claims. The first training class of eight dogs and 14 handlers -- rangers from Tanzania's Wildlife Division and the Kenya Wildlife Service -- graduated last year. Time may be running out for the rhinoceros. Greed powered by uninformed demand could wipe out rhinos in the wild in the next 20 years. But that's not stopping people from trying to save them. Last-gasp moonshots, like reconstructing one rhino species from stem cells, may yield advances to save others. GPS trackers, cameras and motion sensors could catch poachers before they can kill. Cancer breakthroughs might quash demand for the horn. There's a good chance it won't be any one answer for saving the rhino, but a combination of many. "We are excited to work with technology companies, and we hope that we can find a solution to this confounding crisis," Sieffert says. "No idea is too crazy to just throw out there and see if it actually works." About 29,000 rhinos still live in the wild. Ideas, anyone? This story appears in the winter 2016 edition of CNET Magazine. For other magazine stories, click here.


Wegan M.T.,562 East Stoll Road | Etter D.R.,562 East Stoll Road | Belant J.L.,Mississippi State University | Beyer Jr. D.E.,Wildlife Division | And 2 more authors.
Wildlife Society Bulletin | Year: 2014

Weevaluated a cable neck-restraint for live capture of coyotes (Canis latrans) in Michigan, USA, from 6 January to 22 March 2011. We documented capture efficiency, selectivity, and animal welfare using criteria developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Best Management Practices and the International Organization for Standardization. We constructed cable restraints with an 8.9-cm-diameter minimum loop stop and reverse bend washer locks drilled to 4.8 mm, to more readily relax on 2.4-mmdiameter steel cable. Cable restraints were set for 938 trap-nights during January-March 2011. Capture efficiency was 71.4% (n=20 coyotes) and selectivity 95.0%. We performed necropsies (n=11) or external examinations (n=9) to evaluate capture-related injuries and released coyotes fitted with Global Positioning System collars (n=5) to estimate home-range size. Mean individual injury score of necropsied coyotes was 5.0±SD 8.9 and mean total injury score was 7.3±SD 9.8; we observed no mortality of coyotes due to capture. Home range sizes of 2 coyotes (8.9km2 and 16.6 km2) were within the 95% confidence interval ofmean homerange size of resident coyotes captured in foothold traps (16.0km2±SD 5.7, n=11). Our findings indicate this cable restraint configuration exceeds all Best Management Practices criteria and is suitable for the capture of coyotes in both wildlife management and research arenas. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.


Stillfried M.,Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research | Belant J.L.,Mississippi State University | Svoboda N.J.,Mississippi State University | Beyer D.E.,Wildlife Division | Kramer-Schadt S.,Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
Behavioural Processes | Year: 2015

The trade-off between predator avoidance and foraging is a key decision making factor that shapes an organism's adaptive behaviour and movement patterns. Human hunters act as top predators to influence the behaviour of free-ranging mammals, including large carnivorous species such as black bears (Ursus americanus). Analysing the effects of hunting on animal behavioural patterns is essential for understanding the extent to which animals detect and respond to human-induced disturbances. To this end, we assessed whether black bear movement behaviour changed with varying risk from spatially and temporally heterogeneous human predation. Levels of risk were categorized as either low (disturbance from dog training; n= 19 bears) or high (disturbance from hunting activities; n= 11 bears). Road types were either paved (risk due to vehicles) or non-paved (risk due to hunters) and were used as proxies for hunting effort and amount of disturbance. We began by testing the null hypothesis that bears' distribution before the onset of human disturbance is spatially random. Next, to test temporal movement adjustment between the low and high risk levels, we measured the distance to the nearest road and the road crossing frequency using mixed effects models with risk level, time of day and sex as predictor variables.As disturbance near non-paved roads increased due to the start of the hunting activity, the mean distances of bears to non-paved roads increased while the mean distances of bears to paved roads decreased, despite the continual risk of vehicle collision. These behavioural responses were observed during day and night, with the frequency of crossing paved roads at night five times greater than in daytime during the hunting season.Our findings demonstrate that black bears are able to detect risky places and adjust their spatial movements accordingly. More specifically, bears can perceive changes in the level of risk from human hunting activities on a fine temporal scale. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.


Stricker H.K.,Mississippi State University | Belant J.L.,Mississippi State University | Beyer Jr. D.E.,Wildlife Division | Kanefsky J.,Michigan State University | And 3 more authors.
Wildlife Society Bulletin | Year: 2012

Although genetic and analytical methods for estimating wildlife abundance have improved rapidly over the last decade, effective methods for collecting hair samples from terrestrial carnivores in a mark-recapture framework have lagged. Hair samples are generally collected using methods that permit sampling of multiple individuals during a single sampling period that can cause genotyping errors due to cross-contamination. We evaluated a modified body snare as a single-sample method to obtain bobcat hair samples suitable for individual identification using DNA analyses to estimate population size. We used a systematic grid (2.5 × 2.5 km) overlaid on a 278.5 km2 study area in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to distribute sampling effort. In each of 44 grid cells, we placed 2-6 snares at established sampling stations and collected hair samples weekly for 8 weeks during January-March 2010. We collected 230 hair samples overall, with 91% of sampling stations obtaining at least 1 hair sample. Fifty-seven percent of samples had sufficient DNA for species identification, which included bobcat (Lynx rufus, n = 17); raccoon (Procyon lotor, n = 62); coyote, dog, or wolf (Canis spp., n = 29); fox (Vulpes vulpes or Urocyon cinereoargenteus, n = 4); and fisher (Martes pennanti, n = 1). We identified 8 individual bobcats and using Huggins closed capture population models with a one-half mean maximum distance moved buffer, estimated 10 individuals within the trapping area (95% confidence interval = 8-28) with a density of 3.0 bobcats/100 km2. Our method provides an effective, single-sample technique for detecting bobcats and estimating abundance. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.


Bump J.K.,Michigan Technological University | Murawski C.M.,Michigan Technological University | Kartano L.M.,University of Helsinki | Beyer Jr. D.E.,Wildlife Division | Roell B.J.,Wildlife Division
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Background:The influence of policy on the incidence of human-wildlife conflict can be complex and not entirely anticipated. Policies for managing bear hunter success and depredation on hunting dogs by wolves represent an important case because with increasing wolves, depredations are expected to increase. This case is challenging because compensation for wolf depredation on hunting dogs as compared to livestock is less common and more likely to be opposed. Therefore, actions that minimize the likelihood of such conflicts are a conservation need.Methodology/Principal Findings:We used data from two US states with similar wolf populations but markedly different wolf/hunting dog depredation patterns to examine the influence of bear hunting regulations, bear hunter to wolf ratios, hunter method, and hunter effort on wolf depredation trends. Results indicated that the ratio of bear hunting permits sold per wolf, and hunter method are important factors affecting wolf depredation trends in the Upper Great Lakes region, but strong differences exist between Michigan and Wisconsin related in part to the timing and duration of bear-baiting (i.e., free feeding). The probability that a wolf depredated a bear-hunting dog increases with the duration of bear-baiting, resulting in a relative risk of depredation 2.12-7.22× greater in Wisconsin than Michigan. The net effect of compensation for hunting dog depredation in Wisconsin may also contribute to the difference between states.Conclusions/Significance:These results identified a potential tradeoff between bear hunting success and wolf/bear-hunting dog conflict. These results indicate that management options to minimize conflict exist, such as adjusting baiting regulations. If reducing depredations is an important goal, this analysis indicates that actions aside from (or in addition to) reducing wolf abundance might achieve that goal. This study also stresses the need to better understand the relationship among baiting practices, the effect of compensation on hunter behavior, and depredation occurrence. © 2013 Bump et al.


PubMed | Wildlife Division, Mississippi State University and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
Type: | Journal: Behavioural processes | Year: 2015

The trade-off between predator avoidance and foraging is a key decision making factor that shapes an organisms adaptive behaviour and movement patterns. Human hunters act as top predators to influence the behaviour of free-ranging mammals, including large carnivorous species such as black bears (Ursus americanus). Analysing the effects of hunting on animal behavioural patterns is essential for understanding the extent to which animals detect and respond to human-induced disturbances. To this end, we assessed whether black bear movement behaviour changed with varying risk from spatially and temporally heterogeneous human predation. Levels of risk were categorized as either low (disturbance from dog training; n=19 bears) or high (disturbance from hunting activities; n=11 bears). Road types were either paved (risk due to vehicles) or non-paved (risk due to hunters) and were used as proxies for hunting effort and amount of disturbance. We began by testing the null hypothesis that bears distribution before the onset of human disturbance is spatially random. Next, to test temporal movement adjustment between the low and high risk levels, we measured the distance to the nearest road and the road crossing frequency using mixed effects models with risk level, time of day and sex as predictor variables. As disturbance near non-paved roads increased due to the start of the hunting activity, the mean distances of bears to non-paved roads increased while the mean distances of bears to paved roads decreased, despite the continual risk of vehicle collision. These behavioural responses were observed during day and night, with the frequency of crossing paved roads at night five times greater than in daytime during the hunting season. Our findings demonstrate that black bears are able to detect risky places and adjust their spatial movements accordingly. More specifically, bears can perceive changes in the level of risk from human hunting activities on a fine temporal scale.


PubMed | Wildlife Division and Mississippi State University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

Interactions between humans and carnivores have existed for centuries due to competition for food and space. American black bears are increasing in abundance and populations are expanding geographically in many portions of its range, including areas that are also increasing in human density, often resulting in associated increases in human-bear conflict (hereafter, bear incidents). We used public reports of bear incidents in Michigan, USA, from 2003-2011 to assess the relative contributions of ecological and anthropogenic variables in explaining the spatial distribution of bear incidents and estimated the potential risk of bear incidents. We used weighted Normalized Difference Vegetation Index mean as an index of primary productivity, region (i.e., Upper Peninsula or Lower Peninsula), primary and secondary road densities, and percentage land cover type within 6.5-km2 circular buffers around bear incidents and random points. We developed 22 a priori models and used generalized linear models and Akaikes Information Criterion (AIC) to rank models. The global model was the best compromise between model complexity and model fit (w = 0.99), with a AIC 8.99 units from the second best performing model. We found that as deciduous forest cover increased, the probability of bear incident occurrence increased. Among the measured anthropogenic variables, cultivated crops and primary roads were the most important in our AIC-best model and were both positively related to the probability of bear incident occurrence. The spatial distribution of relative bear incident risk varied markedly throughout Michigan. Forest cover fragmented with agriculture and other anthropogenic activities presents an environment that likely facilitates bear incidents. Our map can help wildlife managers identify areas of bear incident occurrence, which in turn can be used to help develop strategies aimed at reducing incidents. Researchers and wildlife managers can use similar mapping techniques to assess locations of specific conflict types or to address human impacts on endangered species.


PubMed | Wildlife Division and Mississippi State University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2015

Factors relevant to resource selection in carnivores may vary across spatial and temporal scales, both in magnitude and rank. Understanding relationships among carnivore occupancy, prey presence, and habitat characteristics, as well as their interactions across multiple scales, is necessary to improve our understanding of resource selection and predict population changes. We used a multi-scale dynamic hierarchical co-occurrence model with camera data to study bobcat and snowshoe hare occupancy in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during winter 2012-2013. Bobcat presence was influenced at the local scale by snowshoe hare presence, and by road density at the local and larger scale when hare were absent. Hare distribution was related primarily to vegetation cover types, and detectability varied in space and time. Bobcat occupancy dynamics were influenced by different factors depending on the spatial scale considered and the resource availability context. Moreover, considering observed co-occurrence, we suggest that bobcat presence had a greater effect on hare occupancy than hare presence on bobcat occupancy. Our results highlight the importance of studying carnivore distributions in the context of predator-prey relationships and its interactions with environmental covariates at multiple spatial scales. Our approach can be applied to other carnivore species to provide insights beneficial for management and conservation.

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